Simon brings a learned hand to this bright history of the circus, which emblazons as it preserves the magic.

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THE GREATEST SHOWS ON EARTH

A HISTORY OF THE CIRCUS

From the Roman arena to the Pickle Family, Simon (Emerita, English/Skidmore Coll.; Coco Chanel, 2011, etc.) explores the tropes and stylings of the many-headed creature known as the circus.

When you come down to it, writes the author, the “body as spectacle is the origin of the circus.” She locates that origin, of a performer surrounded by a crowd of spectators, in the Roman arena—not in the gladiator fights or the chariot races but in the light diversion between the carnage: funambulists, tumblers, jugglers and acrobats. The performers eventually branched out, accompanied by dancing turkeys, climbing monkeys and walking dogs, to rites, festivals and fairs, gathering steam and polish as they competed with the theater and opera. As a popular pastime, they would flaunt the wild and subversive, and the clown would emerge from the itinerant troupes of bawdy characters performing pantomimes. Throughout, Simon demonstrates her understanding that circuses are mystical and complex, full of dazzle and escapism, both social and sexual—for who did not want to possess one of those fine bodies on exhibition? In a not-so-surprising turn of events, the upper crust got involved, with nobles taking to the ring and leotard: “The cult of gymnastics, many critics held, was motivated not by a desire to improve health but rather by anxiety over the degeneration of the race, specifically of the wealthy and privileged.” As the author travels back and forth from the intimate one-ring European circuses to the three-ring big top, she plucks out certain elements to highlight: the grand entrances of circuses to towns or cities; the individual feats of the human cannonball, equilibrist, contortionist and stunt riders; and the grift and vulgarity that sparked the sanctimony of the moralists. The book also contains dozens of illuminating photographs that complement the text.

Simon brings a learned hand to this bright history of the circus, which emblazons as it preserves the magic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1780233581

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Reaktion Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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